Former Laurel Christian School headmaster pleads guilty to embezzlement

Former Laurel Christian School headmaster pleads guilty to embezzlement
Rick Bartley, 55, in court Thursday.
Rick Bartley, 55, in court Thursday.

JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Former Laurel Christian School Headmaster Rick Bartley, 55, pleaded guilty in court Thursday to his indicted charge of embezzlement in excess of $25,000.

According to the Jones County District Attorney's Office, Bartley was stealing cash from the school overtime from 2011 – 2013. The office said when Bartley was previously asked if he had ever taken cash from Laurel Christian School Bartley replied and said he did and the reason he did was because he was living beyond his means.

District Attorney Tony Buckley said if the case went to trial the state would be able to prove that an amount of $58,000 was stolen from Laurel Christian School by Bartley. He went on to say they would be able to provide parents to testify in the case saying they paid Bartley cash for their child's education. Buckley said the state would also provide statements by some employees of the school testifying that all cash payments from 2008 and on that came into the office had to be turned in to Bartley.

Bartley received a 5 year sentence with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with all 5 years of that sentence suspended on condition that he successfully completes 5 years of unsupervised post-release supervision.

According to the district attorney's office, Bartley is not medically well. The office said the sentence given to Bartley is for the purpose of allowing him to return to his home in Alabama so that he is able to maintain his medical visits that he will need in Texas and Alabama.

Judge Dal Williamson said the sentence was not one that he would ordinarily approve of based on the crime committed, but he went ahead and sentenced Bartley to what the state and the Laurel Christian School board members agreed on. According to the district attorney's office, the school board did not wish to see Bartley go to prison.

"You violated the trust that a lot of people put in you, "said Judge Williamson to Bartley. "People looked up to you, I looked up to you."

When asked if he had anything to say Bartley said, "I'm sorry and for all who hear this I would ask their forgiveness."

Bartley was arrested after his sentence, booked into the Jones County jail and was then released. The D.A.'s office said Bartley will have to pay back $12,000 to Laurel Christian School.

"He's now a convicted felon, he can now no longer work in many jobs or vote because it's a crime of dishonesty," said Buckley. "It's also a crime that cannot be expunged by law in Mississippi so he'll have that conviction for the rest of his life. It's not something that any professional person that's been in education with a wife and kids wants to have publicly acknowledged."

Buckley said no student at LCS suffered as a result of the crime committed by Bartley, who was headmaster at the school from 1999 - 2013.